What’s in a name?: folksy fine dining at Joe’s Restaurant
July 30, 2011
VENICE, US – “Not your average Joe” is such a cliché that I hate for it to even cross my keyboard. But in the case of Joe’s Restaurant in the beachside LA hamlet of Venice, it’s really quite apropos. From the sound of the name, you’d think this was a generic eatery on par with local diner franchises like Norm’s or Denny’s. But, no, no, no…not this Joe.
The Joe of Joe’s Restaurant is the affable Joe Miller, who chitchats with the regulars and woos newcomers with his cheerful banter at this buzzing Venice neighborhood spot known for its posh noshes. The vibe is fittingly California casual, while the cuisine is surprisingly ambitious. Joe’s pedigree prior to opening his namesake restaurant in 1991 included cooking at LA’s L’Orangerie and training with Michel Guérard in France at Eugenie-Les-Bains.
Taking a note from its ocean-adjacent locale, the neutral, beachy interiors in the small, intimate dining room layer soft features like pearly banquettes with the crisp whites and crystal of precise table settings. But the primo seats here are on the airy, covered terrace, which takes advantage of the (nearly) year-round sunshine. Definitely call ahead if you want a spot out here. It’s a popular nook for wedding showers and the like, so make sure it hasn’t already been booked out.
While the cuisine can at times be up and down (the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star in 2008 but lost it in 2009), certain dishes are consistent standouts. Given the seaside proximity, choices like California sand dabs, crisp black cod, and grilled Ahi tuna are sure bets. Brunch draws raves–and crowds. Local devotees pack in for European-style breakfasts like poached eggs and warm French lentils, and Southern-Cali-inflected choices like the green chili and turkey chorizo burrito.
Though the eats are upscale, there’s no hoity-toity ‘tude. Service is as it should be: kind and familiar. When part of my order was forgotten, I was given my food for free (and issued many apologies)! And while it’s perfect for a dressed-up family brunch or an intimate chat with a date, it’s easy to imagine Venice bon vivants stopping in to fuel up before hitting the surf.
Combining a meal here with a browse on bohemian/avant-garde Abbot Kinney Boulevard makes for a satisfying day of good eats and unique finds. While it’s hard to pass up Joe’s tempting dessert selections like the “Chocolate Duo” for two (an all-out binge of chocolate soufflé cake, crème fraiche ice cream, caramel rice candy, passion fruit curd, and brandied cherries served with two half glasses of Dow’s Crusted Port) (yes, I’m serious), you might want to walk off your meal a bit first and wind up at Intelligentsia Coffee for–what else?–a stellar cup of joe.
Read more about Joe’s Restaurant in our Los Angeles Guide.